West Lothian have escaped from the jaws of despair to steal a place in the knockout stage of The Cities and Counties Championship having finished in second place to East section winners Edinburgh & Leith.
Last years national finalists seemed to be in a serious nosedive when losing three games out of five but pulled themselves out of a disastrous scenario in miraculous style with successive wins over joint leaders E&L and East Lothian. The 20 shot away win over E&L in match number six gave West Lothian a glimmer of hope going into their final match against East Lothian at Haddington and the visitors rose to the occasion with a magnificent 15 shot triumph (119-104).
The final outcome was a close call with East Lothian mostly dictating the pace but never quite reaching a comfort zone and paying the ultimate price as West Lothian conjured up a magic finish of 10-2 and 12-1 that turned a 4 shot deficit into a 15 shot victory. East Lothian spurned their first chance to go for the kill following encouraging counts of 11-3 and 9-1 on ends eight and nine that pushed them from peels on the master scoreboard into a 16 shot lead; but WL refused to cave in. End 14 presented the home team with a second opportunity to stamp their authority in the shape of carding 8-2 to establish a double-figure lead of 15; but WL forced their direction of travel downwards and not upwards.
It was never a lost cause for an East Lothian side that only needed a draw to qualify for the quarterfinals but holding onto their declining supremacy was a challenge they failed to meet. In the end wins on their rinks skipped by Derek Oliver and Scott Kennedy and a peel for Craig Valentine against Sandy McDougall was the best the home side could muster. The heroic West Lothian effort was driven by the never say die play on the triumphant rinks skipped by Raymond Logan, Thomas Mann, and Neil Speirs The phase scoring illustrates the superior under-pressure fighting qualities of the visitors with the first seven-ends shared 37-37, EL dominating the second, 44-29; but WL storming to a game-changing 53-23 triumph on the third.
Ray Logan produced a super display for WL as he skipped Steven Forrest, Walter McDougall, and Gary Smith to a 26-13 win over Ian Bell having answered pressure at 14-12 with an inspired purple patch finish of 3, 4, (1), 1, 4. Mann also switched on to flying mode when the tough questions were being asked and from 16-14 down produced a dynamic 1, 4, 3 finish to skip Andrew Semple, James Speirs, and John Aitken to a 22-16 win over Billy Mellors. Speirs picked up from 11-10 down with a run of four singles and with his nose in front skipped Ewan Shearer, Blair Mackie, and Andy Dunnett to a 17-14 win over John McCrorie.
McDougall (Sandy) shared a 12-12 scoreline after 11-ends and come 21 had skipped John Black, Jamie Aitken, and Gary Orr to a 20-20 peel with EL team captain Craig Valentine. Derek Oliver kept East Lothian in the picture with the stronger finish from 13-12 to score a 20-16 win over Brian Craig, Alec Allan, Mark Allison, and Steven Fleming. While Kennedy skipped his rink into a handsome 18-8 lead before forced to settle for a 21-18 win over Drew Paterson, Connor McKendrick, Stuart Johnston, and Grant Logan. The final match scores in the East section were, East Lothian 104 West Lothian 119; Midlothian 125 Edinburgh & Leith 111; Stirling East 120 Fife County 124; West Fife 144 Borders 93.
The League Table –Top Two Qualify for the Last Eeight Knockout Stage – reads,
E&L 8 (+71); West Lothian 8 (+42); Midlothian 8 (+32); Fife 8 (+23); East Lothian 8 (+19); West Fife 6 (-20); Stirling East 6 (-32); Borders 4 (-135).
The quarterfinals take place on Saturday 4th July and the draw reads, Highland v Lanarkshire South (Holders) at Kinnoull; Edinburgh & Leith v Renfrewshire West at Bainfield; Wigtownshire v Northern Counties at Cumnock; Glasgow West v West Lothian at Kilwinning.
PHOTOS TO FOLLOW
Ewan Shearer of Bo’ness BC is a prominent figure in West Lothian bowling circles and the 42-year old Scotland Cap has added to his reputation by capturing the WLBA Singles title for a second time, and in spectacular style at the Championship Finals played at Broxburn. Shearer went head to head with fellow Bo’nessian Stuart Williamson of Kinneil BC and showed his fellow townsman lots of respect but no mercy as he romped to a 21-3 victory in a super-quick 12-ends. Whilst the scoring was massively one-sided and without doubt a massacre it can be said that Williamson played well enough and was luckless; but Shearer produced a scintillating display of precision drawing abilities that constantly smothered the jack. Shearer previously etched his name on the Baillie Trophy (1903) in 2012 whilst other Singles triumphs in West Lothian includes 2 Junior Opens, 3 District Singles and One Junior, one Masters, and 4 Champion of Champions.
The defeat of Kirkliston in the Fours was the major shock of the night with Queensferry – the first ever champions in 1905 as it happens – capturing the glory with their rink comprising Colin Hamilton, Alan Grant, Raymond Reid, and David Guild. The score after 13 ding-dong ends was 13-13 then Guild and Co broke to 16 with a 3 but lost a 2 before coping with a nailbiting climax to card a 3 and clinch an 18-15 win over hot favourites Nathan McKendrick, Gordon Logan, Calum Logan, and Grant Logan.
Kirkliston faired much better in the Pairs with Andi Gray and Neil Speirs wiping out a 5-0 deficit to cross 11-9 then make space to 17 with counts of 2 and 4 en route to clinching a 20-12 win over Matt Thomson and Cameron Greer of Bathgate.
The final of the Triples was an epic lowscoring battle with the Armadale trio of Stuart Sneddon, Kenny Martin, and John Ellis adding two singles to clinch a 10-8 victory over Drew Paterson, Ian Robertson, and James Speirs of Newbridge.